Mon, 18 Feb, 2019

Happy hour

SC pronouncement must not be seen as licence to go back to the jolly days of freely granting liquor licences

28th February 2018, 05:44 Hrs

The recent Supreme Court order clarifying its stand on the sale of liquor along highways has, at least in Goa’s case, served to completely dilute the original intention of the initial Supreme Court order.   

The Supreme Court order of December 2016 had sent panic through the excise industry in the state with more than 3,000 liquor vendors set to lose their licenses.   

The common consensus then was that the 500-metre rule made no sense especially in a state like Goa much less for the length and breadth of the country as diverse as India which is not limited to the plains of North India where the flatlands stretch as far as the eyes can see.   

This led to the Supreme Court initially saying that the order would not apply to municipal areas and more recently to the order of February 23 where they have said that it would apply to urbanised local bodies as well, provided the principle is the same.   

The onus is now on the state government. Bar licence holders get to approach the state government saying that the village they are located in is sufficiently urbanised to be treated like a municipal area and if the state government agrees, the licensee can be given the licence.   

What this means is that, firstly, almost all of Goa can be treated as urbanised citing one statistic or parameter or another making last year’s Supreme Court order redundant and secondly that such discretion opens the floodgates of corruption.   

It is no secret that even in the existing situation licences are processed one way or the other depending on how much money changes hands. With the licence hopefuls now at the mercy of the state government’s discretion, it can only mean that it will require all the more money to change hands to help decide whether a particular village is sufficiently urbanised or not.   

The worst part is, there is little anyone can do about this.   

The entire saga, though completely avoidable, should serve as a reminder to the state government that it cannot continue to indiscriminately be granting liquor licences for the sake of its own revenues, or any other consideration and that despite the recent Supreme Court order, there needs to be a stop on the number of liquor licences being issued.   

At around 11,000 the number of liquor licences is high for Goa, even considering the number of tourists that descend on the state each year. Let the recent Supreme Court order not be an excuse for the state government to go back to the jolly days of freely granting liquor licences with a heaven may care attitude.